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Hebrew media review

From Jerusalem with love

Most of the Hebrew papers hail Mike Pence for making ‘historic’ visit to Israel, but some remain unimpressed

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport on January 21, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport on January 21, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

US Vice President Mike Pence’s 48-hour working visit to Israel, which has been largely overshadowed by President Donald Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem, is unsurprisingly the main focus for Israel’s Hebrew-language newspapers on Monday.

Pence began his visit to Israel on Sunday evening being praised as a “great friend” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and shunned by the Palestinians over the Trump administration’s shift in policy regarding the status of Jerusalem.

Yedioth Ahronoth calls Pence’s visit “historic,” but notes the welcoming ceremony for the American vice president at the Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday night was “significantly more modest” than the fanfare afforded President Trump when he visited Israel last May.

The daily reports that Pence was the driving force behind Trump’s controversial announcement on December 6 in which he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and hails his “longstanding” support for Israel throughout his political career.

Israel Hayom also heaps praise on Pence, likening his visit to a “warm hug in Israel’s capital city.”

Like Yedioth, the free daily reports that Pence was the “architect” of the Trump administration’s shift in policy regarding Jerusalem.

In its report, Israel Hayom details the preparations at the Knesset for Pence’s address there later on Monday, and says security at the Israeli parliament will be “extra stringent” in light of the 800 or so guests who have been invited to hear the vice president speak.

Workers installing flags for Mike Pence’s visit to the Knesset on January 21, 2018. (Yitzhak Harari/Knesset)

But columnists in both Yedioth and Israel Hayom are less impressed, and say Pence’s reasons for visiting boils down to his evangelical, pro-Israel roots.

In Yedioth, veteran Israeli diplomat Alon Pinkas dubs the trip “The Seinfeld visit,” because “ultimately it’s really about nothing.”

“A visit without any goals, without expected outcomes or coherent policy expectations. Just a visit. Nice, but for nothing.”

Pinkas goes on to compare the Trump administration’s yet-be-revealed Mideast peace plan to the Loch Ness monster.

“Everyone is talking about it, some claim to have seen it and a few insist that it exists, but in reality it doesn’t. There is no American peace plan beyond a copy-paste of the Clinton Parameters,” he says.

Pinkas argues that Pence is visiting Israel for two reasons: his Evangelical beliefs, and in preparation to possibly assume the role of president should Trump be found guilty of colluding with Russia in order to win the 2016 election.

Israel Hayom columnist Dror Eydar makes a similar argument. He says the reason for Pence’s visit is entirely religious.

“The evangelicals read the bible as it was written: the people of Israel will always remain the people of Israel, and if the biblical prophecies speak of their return to Zion, this effort must be helped,” Adir writes.

“According to their beliefs, the status of the US as a world superpower is ordained because of its support for the Jewish people and their state,” he says, noting that he has heard a number of US Christian leaders say: “We are American patriots, therefore we are Zionists.”

In striking contrast, Israel’s main left-wing newspaper Haaretz barely makes any mention of Pence’s visit in its Monday edition.

The left-wing daily continues its extensive coverage of the new plan to forcibly deport tens of thousands of African migrants and refugees living in Israel.

On its front page, Haaretz reports that the Population and Immigration Authority has begun informing Africans at the Holot detention center that they will have to leave Israel for Rwanda, or face indefinite incarceration at the Saharonim Prison.

Thousands of Christian Evangelicals and Israelis march at a parade in Jerusalem, marking the Jewish festival of Sukkot, or the Feast of the Tabernacles, on October 10, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A letter obtained by the paper reveals that the Israeli government is warning migrants and asylum seekers that “enforcement and deportation steps will be taken” against those who refuse to leave.

Haaretz notes sarcastically that the letter to the undocumented Africans concludes with: “Best of Luck.”

Haaretz columnists also appear apathetic regarding Pence’s visit, forgoing it completely in favor of the recent tensions between religious and secular Israelis in light of the recent law passed designed to shutter Jewish-owned businesses on Shabbat.

Columnist Moshe Arens does weigh in on the peace process, but does not mention Pence’s visit specifically.

He argues the that international mediation in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians only muddles the conflict, and has led to a hypocritical and “politically correct” understanding of the conflict abroad.

Arens says the only way forward is direct talks between the two sides, unmonitored by the international community.

“But this will take time, a long time,” he predicts.

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